Jesus Gives Life To The World

[]Have you ever been approached by someone who was hungry? If so, have you ever responded, "I am the bread of Life"? I haven't either. Perhaps it might be seen as an affront and the person might turn and walk away upon hearing those words. But in a very real way, as disciples of Christ we are the bread of life, the continuing bread of life that Jesus brought into the world because we follow him. And he is, as we heard in Scripture today, self proclaimed: he is the bread of life come into the world.

So I go back to the ending of this passage where he speaks about the bread from heaven. He said, "For the bread of heaven is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." After a request for that bread, he says, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." That is quite a claim, for we know that the people who were fed at the feeding of the five thousand did get hungry again. Some of them even followed him across the lake to see if he would perform another sign or miracle. In fact, in order to believe that he is the bread of life, they demanded to see another miracle performed in their presence, which we will read about in future weeks. How are we to take Jesus' proclamation that anyone who comes to him will never be hungry or thirsty again? Most of us had breakfast this morning and we're hungry again. We will have lunch and dinner, and be hungry again. It seems as though we never stop being hungry. And when people approach us on the street who really are hungry, we do have compassion for them because all of us, in some form or way, have felt hunger pains.

So how is it that those who turn to Jesus may not ever hunger or thirst again? We come to church, we're followers of Christ, we have Communion once a month, and yet we feel a continuing hunger. It does not seem to fully go away. But perhaps in Jesus explaining that he is the bread of life, he is not actually talking about bread at all. Perhaps it is that which sustains us in our life, not only bodily but in spirit. Think for a moment about the diminishing factors that happen in life. Coming to mind is loss of health. But when it comes to damaging our spirituality, there are other factors that tend to make us more and more hungry for God, some of those being the injustices that we see around us, lawlessness that runs rampant in our society, the hardness of heart and lack of compassion that tends to be a part of modern-day living, uncaring, even hatred. These things which diminish us and diminish our communities leave us hungering for answers. And when we approach God and we approach Jesus, we see the injustices righted. We see justice happening. And where there is unrighteousness, we see righteousness beginning. Where there had been un-forgiveness, we see forgiveness taking place. Where there was no compassion, we now see caring and mercy. And when we see hatred, we see Jesus standing in the face of that with love.

So when Jesus calls himself the bread of life and says that those coming to him will never hunger or thirst again, could it be, by truly following him and becoming the hands of Christ in the community, by becoming seekers of justice and righteousness, forgiveness, mercy and love, that that's what fulfills and what starts to end the real hungers in this world beyond physical hunger? Is it that which begins to heal us and get us to offer God our praise much more willingly? These are key questions I asked myself in looking over this text again for us today: "How is it that Jesus is the bread of life?" When you think about what it means to have a good life, when it really comes down to it, it's not material riches, but it is richness in love, it is richness in community where people are treated fairly and cared about and lifted up. It's where people reach out to heal one another, and that is where fullness of life really comes. When you have a caring community around you, even though you might be in difficulty there is still a sense of wholeness. Could this be the bread of life we never hunger or thirst for again?

Consider that when Jesus speaks of these things, he is really speaking about that which is spiritual. All those who came to Jesus hungered for something, and he responded with the healings and the forgiveness, speaking about justice and caring. This is where our hungers starts to diminish and where life begins to really take hold for us all. Wouldn't it be a joyful day if everyone realized this and we all had a complete change of heart, a complete change of the most challenging parts of our character, and the world were just that kind of place? We know that's an awesome task and we know it's not likely to happen all at once. But as followers of Jesus, we are to meet human hunger in that way. We are to feed the world through our resources to help nourish hungry bodies and provide medication, housing, clothing, and care.

In this particular passage, Jesus is speaking beyond simple bread. He is speaking about himself as the bread from heaven because he came and he showed us. And then walking in his walk, we find redemption and life, and we are fed. And though we might assume that that might curb the hunger or appetite for our relationship with God, that does not diminish. And that is actually a good thing and a joyful thing.

On this Communion Sunday when we are about to partake of the elements of bread and cup…Christ's body, Christ's blood, bread from heaven, cup of the covenant…let us consider that these things are more than just simple elements of bread and cup, for they symbolize the greater sense of the bread of life and the greater sense of this wonderful covenant that we have received from Christ. Let us be filled with the Spirit. Let us pray on it, let us discern it, and let us embody what Christ has called us to as his followers.

August 2, 2009

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